According to researchers from University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI), Stereotactic Radio Surgery (SRS), which was developed at UPCI, can successfully control pain in patients with cancer that has spread to the spine. SRS is a procedure that precisely delivers a large dose of radiation directly to tumors.

The researchers from UPCI, led by Dwight E. Heron, M.D., associate professor and vice-chairman of the Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, are scheduled to deliver their study results at the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) annual meeting in Chicago.

The study compared the effectiveness of single and multi-session treatments of SRS in controlling patients’ pain. According to Dr. Heron, cancers, including prostate cancer, frequently spread to the bone and the spine. These spreads can be extremely painful. “Conventional radiation therapy is not always effective in alleviating bone pain resulting from spread of cancer to the spine. In patients who have previously received radiation, few options for effective treatment exist,” Dr. Heron said.

The study reviewed the outcomes of 228 patients treated with SRS at UPCI and Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC). Patients at UPCI received a single treatment of SRS while patients at GUMC generally received three treatment sessions.

“Both arms of the study successfully proved that SRS is a safe and effective form of treatment for patients with cancer that has spread to their bones, even in patients who had previously received radiation to the spine,” said Dr. Heron. “Interestingly, patients who received only one treatment experienced faster onset of pain relief but those who received three treatments experienced relief for longer periods of time. Additionally, patients who received three treatments had less need for re-treatment and greater survival rates.”

Accuray, Inc. (the manufacturer of the devices that perform SRS) funded this study.

Joel T Nowak MA, MSW